Bronx Purgatory

Let me start by saying that Bren, Gabe and I had a great time in New York and New Haven. The weather was fantastic, the Deezledub ran like a champ*, and the Yankees and Elis** both won.

That said, for first-time visitors to Yankee Stadium, the bleachers are a bit like purgatory — you see heaven firsthand and are witness to its glory, but you can’t … quite … reach it. Let me explain.

Narrow is the way
First, you gotta get there. Despite their noteriety, the subways weren’t bad. Narrow, yes, but packed with fellow Yankees fans. Makes you feel good.

Then you get off the train. An aside here: I asked my dad if he wanted to come on this trip. His response: “I’d like to have seen New York around 1790. Not since.” He would consider the clausterphobic concrete confines of NYC a vision of hell, I suspect. I wouldn’t go that far, but you do get the feeling that the Bronx, over the years, has been paved with good intentions … not all of which have been realized.

There’s no beautiful approach to this stadium. It’s grittier, more “real” than you might believe, given the pristine white of the uniforms and the clean-cut multimillionaires swinging the lumber. Then you see it: the line of ticketholders filing slowly through the gates. The excitement is palpable. You reach into you pocket to find the tickets — only the thousandth time you’ve double-checked. You smile, because you are one of the chosen.

Shedding our worldly possessions
Our camera lost its charge on the three-hour Circle Tour of Manhattan Island, so we prowl the souvenir shops along the narrow way, looking for a cheap disposable, or failing that, an expensive disposable. Finding none, we head back to the gates — and lo! a stadium souvenir stand with a solitary Fuji hanging on the pegboard behind the cashier.

“How much?” I ask.

“$20,” she states flatly.

Judge not! my conscious admonishes, and I smile and hand her a crisp $20 bill. She hands us the camera, and we get in line. From somewhere above us, a loud voice proclaims that only small, child’s backpacks are allowed into the stadium — no other bags. Brendan carries ours — a green knapsack barely big enough for a grade-school reading textbook. In it is our dead digital camera, sweatshirts, a notebook, a bottle of water, and souvenirs from the day thus far.

Then I notice that no one, but no one, is carrying anything remotely close to the size of this little knapsack. I approach a nearby angel — a no-nonsense black woman with security written all over her. I point to Bren’s pack and start to ask … she slowly shakes her head. We turn back.

“What will we do with the backpack?” asks Gabe.

“Throw it away, I guess — we have no place to put it,” I say.

We tie our sweatshirts around our waists, stuff our pockets with souvenirs and the two cameras, grab the notebook, triple-check that we have the tickets, and carry the rest of our belongings in search of a trash can. Finally, we resort to quietly slipping it into a plastic bag tied to the side of a hot dog cart while the owner serves his customers.

St. Peter at the gates
We get back in line. It’s moving quickly now, and when we reach St. Peter, he’s stocky, with a crew cut and the same uniform and no-nonsense look as the angel from earlier. He is about to scan our tickets, then frowns. He shakes his head: “Not here. Bleacher gate.” He points back around the corner, past the hot dog stand.

“OK, thanks. C’mon, boys.”

We turn, and there’s no easy way out … unless the angel lifts the ropes for us. I approach and smile. “Wrong gate,” I say. She raises the rope, but does not smile.

The bleacher gates aren’t exactly pearly. We enter into a dank tunnel, past a smiling old man like Charon on the Styx. Incidentally, he doesn’t seem concerned about bags or backpacks — only tickets.

We follow the tunnel nearly to its end, and see section 59. We emerge into the light of Yankee Stadium. The sun is blinding, but in a few minutes, it’ll drop behind the upper decks. The grass is immaculate, and the atmosphere is electric, even with only a handful of fans here this early. So this is baseball heaven.

Saints and sinners
We could see the visitors’ bullpen from our seats — and if we stood, we could see the line of fans waiting to get into Monument Park, home of Yankees heroes in marble and bronze.

“Wanna go down?” I ask.

The boys nod excitedly.

“Wait just a sec; I’ll find out where we get in line.”

I step back into the corridor. The angel’s brother, by the looks, stands in a wide doorway opening toward the field.

“This the way to Monument Park?” I ask.

“No admittance,” he says.

The line had looked pretty long. “It’s full up for tonight?” I venture.

“No admittance with bleacher tickets.”

I told the boys. They took it better than me. They wanted to see the Yankee greats, but this was still The Coolest. Trip. Ever.

To me, it was as if we were chosen, but as yet unclean. We could sit with the sinners and glimpse the saints, but not yet commune with them.

Next time we’ll know. Next time we’ll be worthy.

* * * * *

*The Deezledub is what I call my devilishly fuel-efficient Golf — a diesel Vee-Dubbleyoo

**We went to Yale football opener, too — technically the Bulldogs, but they go by the Elis, too, after Elihu Yale. Elihu — that’s a name you don’t hear much these days …

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